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Critique of ADA and Affirmative Action


The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Affirmative Action policies have a similar theme in fighting against discrimination, civil rights, and provision of equal opportunities for individuals through federal authorizations. Both are legal doctrines which seek for equitable measures in providing a standard on which discrimination is made illegal and any violators should face consequences. ADA policies addresses issues related to discrimination on disabled individuals whereas Affirmative Action addresses discrimination based on race, gender, national origin or sex. Both legal doctrines have different governing principles with disparities in their certainty and execution. In spite of these policies having assisted individuals in the provision of opportunities, many disagreements have been witnessed since they were enacted as law. This paper will critique the ADA and Affirmative Action, give an overview of both legislative acts and explain the pros and cons in both acts.

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American with Disabilities Act (ADA)

ADA was enacted as a formal law in 1990. It was signed by the then President George W. Bush in 1990 after a long period of campaigns and movements for disability rights. The underlying principle in ADA legislative act was to rule out discrimination and promote equal opportunities for individuals suffering from both physical and emotional disabilities. Equal opportunities are promoted in employment, transportation, public communication, government services and in commercial facilities. The ADA law has been amended several times causing discrepancies and controversies for the disabled individuals. Title one of ADA states that every employer who employs more than fifteen employees is required to adhere to the requirement of the ADA laws in offering job opportunities to individuals with disabilities who have qualified for the job. In addition to that, these employers are required to provide sensible accommodation facilities and avoid unwarranted adversity on the disabled employees. Sensible accommodation refers to safe accessibility to work place, provision of training materials, devices, examination and interpreters if need be (Powers, 2009).

As at 2008, the ADA law had not been effective in eliminating discrimination. Statistics which were taken in 2008 Fiscal Year shows that, 19,453 charges of discrimination on the disabled individuals were received by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Elimination of discrimination has been a legal challenge which has proved to be difficult to achieve. To make it worse, ADA policies conflicts with regulations from Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ARISA), and workers compensation law (Dale, 2005).

Affirmative Action

Affirmative Action was recognized as a federal mandate because of what individuals had to go through due to their race, gender or ethnicity. Most of them faced discrimination, segregation and domination in the educational sectors and work places. The principle objective for introducing the Affirmative Action was to establish public policies and regulations that would help in eliminating discrimination based on color, race, gender, sex or nationality. It was established to fight for equal opportunities for women and minority groups in education and employment opportunities. It has been argued that, Affirmative Action paves way for equal opportunities in employment and education irrespective of gender, race, sex or nationality (Dale, 2005). However, this act fails to realize that there may be other reasons apart from racism that contribute to the supremacy of specific ethnic groups in some profession. For example the presence of a male counselor in a rape crisis may hinder the raped woman from expressing herself because of the trauma she went through. The presence of a man will remind her of what she went through in the hands of men.

Pros and Cons

Affirmative Action helps individuals from different races, ethnic groups, gender or religious associations to acquire education or be given job opportunities in places where they were not recognized before. It ensures that qualified people are given equal employment opportunities irrespective of their race or national origin. On the other hand, ADA laws protect disabled individuals from being discriminated against because of their physical and mental disability (Powers, 2009). It is a way of motivating them not to perceive disability as an inability and to make them feel capable of performing duties that other normal individuals would perform. It also helps in raising their self esteem and self worth and they feel encouraged to seek for more skills in terms of education. The government portrays it self as being concerned with the social and economic life of its residents. It demonstrates to the public, the importance of accepting every one as if he/she was their siblings. Without the affirmative action, only a certain population would be able to remain in some profession. There are so many women and minority groups with high qualifications who have been able to secure jobs because of the affirmative action. It also helped some communities from being prejudiced by other “superior” communities.

Before Affirmative Action was recognized as law, women and other minority groups were discriminated against and would be denied opportunities that were given to men and other superior groups. This policy assisted such people in accessing education and employment and made them feel valued as members of the society.

These legislative laws have some shortcomings in that, they have not been effective as were expected. The ADA law has failed in eliminating discrimination and many disabled people have been presenting discrimination cases over the years. The laws only catered for a specific part of the population whereas there are still other groups of people who suffer from discrimination for example the marginalized population.

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The ADA law conflicts with other regulations leaving employers in a dilemma on which law to follow. For example OSHA requires employers to provide a safe and secure working environment to its employees while as ADA requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation to disabled employees. ADA is only concerned about the welfare of disabled individuals at the expense of other groups of people who actually provide and assist the disabled people. Some disabled individuals may not be able to work due to the extent of their disability no matter how safe and secure the working environment is. They continue to add cost to the company instead of revenue. Some amendments need to be done on this law for it to be more reasonable.

It is not only discrimination that contributes to the supremacy of some people in certain profession other issues such as corruption and family dynasty are some of the other factors. Addressing discrimination alone may not help in providing equal opportunities to all. Some individuals will continue to suffer because of the above factors which may not be solved with elimination of discrimination.


ADA was established in 1990 for the purpose of preventing disabled individuals from discrimination. Before the law was enacted, disabled individuals often faced discrimination in access of employment and education. They were assumed to be incapable of performing the same duties as those performed by normal people. ADA law required all employers with more than fifteen employees to adhere to the ADA requirements by providing job opportunity to disabled people. They were also required to provide a reasonable accommodation to these people and to provide interpreters to them in case they needed one. However, the ADA law has failed to achieve it mission as evidenced by the 2008 statistics which showed that more than 15,000 individuals presented discrimination cases to the EEOC. The law also conflicted with other regulations in the country such as OSHO, ARISA, and workers compensation laws.

Affirmative Action refers to the regulations that have been set to promote equal access to employment and education to all individuals irrespective of race, color, gender, or national origin. Affirmative Action regulations were set for the purpose of redressing the effects of past or present discrimination and to inspire public bodies such as hospitals, universities and government offices to provide equal opportunities for the entire population. The principle objective for introducing the Affirmative Action was to establish public policies and regulations that would help in eliminating discrimination based on color, race, gender, sex or nationality. Since the introduction of this law, many people who were previously discriminated were able to acquire employment places in the government institutions. However, this law failed to realize that there may be other forces other than racism that were contributing to the dominance of specific population in certain profession.

Reference List

  1. Dale, C.V. (2005). Federal affirmative action law: A brief history.
  2. Powers, M. (2009). ADA and affirmative action.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Critique of ADA and Affirmative Action'. 14 January.

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